A now-critical transportation concern is the federal funding
of highways. Historically, this funding has come from something called the
Highway Trust Fund, a depository for the revenue received from the gas tax. The
gas tax is currently set at $18.4 cents-per-gallon, and has not been raised
since 1993. The Highway Trust Fund is on pace to run dry by August. Since 2008,
Congress has spent $54 billion from general tax revenues to fill the Highway
Trust Fund back up. A current Senate bill is attempting to navigate the funding
issue, but that bill requires Congress to find $18 billion to cover next year’s
costs alone. According to NPR, 70,000 construction jobs hang in the
balance, and according to the Congressional Budgeting Office, without some sort
of new funding source, highway spending would have to decrease by 30 percent
over the next decade and transit spending would need to drop by at least 65 percent.
Below are the bill highlights, as offered by the House Appropriations Committee:
The bill includes $17.1 billion in discretionary appropriations for the
Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2015. This is $727.3 million below
the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $5.8 billion below the President’s
request. Within this amount, funding is prioritized on programs and activities
with national need or significance, and that will help bolster our nation’s
transportation system to support economic growth.
-Highways: The bill provides nearly $40.25 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to
be spent on the Federal Highway program. This is equal to the fiscal year 2014
level. This funding is contingent on the enactment of new transportation
authorization legislation, as the current authorization expires this year.
-Air: Included in the legislation is $15.7 billion in total budgetary
resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is $7.3 million
below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $446 million above the request.
This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including
14,800 air traffic controllers, 7,300 safety inspectors, and operational
The bill also fully funds the FAA’s Next Generation Air
Transportation Systems (NextGen) at $852.4 million, and funds Contract Towers
at $140 million. These investments will help ease future congestion and help
reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill rejects the
Administration’s proposals for new passenger facility and general aviation
-Rail: The Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.4 billion, a
reduction of $193 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This
includes $340 million for Amtrak operations – which will continue service for
all current routes – and $850 million for capital grants. The bill also
continues policy reforms for Amtrak to ensure the best use of tax dollars, such
as requiring overtime limits on Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs,
and prohibiting federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of
50% or more off normal, peak fares. No funding is provided for High-Speed Rail.
In addition, rail safety and research programs are funded at $220.5 million,
$750,000 over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This will fund inspectors and
training to help ensure the safety of communities and the thousands of
passengers that use commuter, regional, and long-distance rail every day.
-Transit: The bill provides for $10.5 billion for the Federal Transit
Administration (FTA) – $253 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.
Transit formula grants are funded at $8.6 billion, consistent with 2014 and the
final year of MAP-21 authorization legislation, and will to help local
communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit
systems. This funding is contingent on the enactment of new transportation
authorization legislation, as the current authorization expires this year.
Within this amount, the legislation provides a total of $1.7 billion for
Capital Investment Grants (“New Starts”), full funding for all current “Full
Funding Grant Agreement” transit projects, and full funding for all state and
local “Small Starts” projects that will begin in fiscal year 2015. These
programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital
investments – including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter
rail – that are planned and operated by local communities.
-Maritime: The legislation includes $305 million for the Maritime
Administration, a decrease of $72 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted
level. The bill will help promote U.S. commerce by providing funding to ensure
the efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land
-Safety: The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety
programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes
$824 million in both mandatory and discretionary funding for the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $5 million over
the fiscal year 2014 enacted level – and $572 million for the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration. Also included is $205.2 million for the Pipeline
and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an increase of $19.4 million
over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level, to help address a variety of safety concerns,
including those related to the transport of crude oil, coal, and other
-Grants: The legislation funds National Infrastructure Investment grants (also
known as TIGER grants) at $100 million, $500 million below the fiscal year 2014
enacted and $1.15 billion below the request. However, the legislation limits
the use of these grants to projects that will address critical transportation
needs, such as road, highway, and bridge construction and improvement, and port
and railroad intermodal improvements. The legislation does not allow these
funds to be used for non-essential purposes, such as street-scaping, or bike
and pedestrian paths.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The legislation includes a total of $40.3
billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a decrease of $769
million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $2 billion below the
request. The bill does not contain funding for any new, unauthorized
“sustainable,” “livable,” or “green” community development programs.
-Section 8 and Public Housing: Included in the bill is $26.3 billion for Public
and Indian Housing. This is an increase of $6.2 million above the fiscal year
2014 enacted level and $1.2 billion below the requested level. This funding will
provide for continued assistance to all families and individuals currently
served by this program. The bill also fully funds the President’s request for
veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.
Other housing programs within the
bill are funded at $10.4 billion – a reduction of $115.6 million below the
fiscal year 2014 enacted level. While a reduction, this funding will continue
assistance to all those currently served by these programs. In addition, the
bill provides $420 million for Housing for the Elderly, $36.5 million above the
fiscal year 2014 enacted level, and $135 million for Housing for Persons with
Disabilities, an increase of $9 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted
Planning and Development: The bill contains $6.2 billion for Community
Planning and Development programs – a reduction of $383 million below the
fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The Community Development Block Grant formula
program is funded at $3 billion – effectively equal to last year’s level –
while the HOME Investment Partnerships Program is funded at $700 million, a
reduction of $300 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Homeless
assistance grants are funded at $2.1 billion – the same as the previous year’s
level – which is sufficient for all current grants to be continued.